Regular season volleyball wraps this week

Following a losing effort at Bayfield last week, and a trip to the Fowler Invitational Saturday, it is crunch time for the Pirate volleyball team.

Crunch time, as in win the remaining Intermountain League matches and enter the Oct. 18 league tournament with a head of steam.

Those league wins are particularly important considering that the 12-25, 15-25, 21-25 Oct. 2 loss at Bayfield put the Pirates in an IML hole, in third place with a 1-3 record.

Bayfield, the league leader, rode to victory primarily on the strength of an overpowering serve game — in particular from freshman Katherine Rifilato. The Wolverine’s jump serve produced 10 aces in 22 attempts, many of the points coming at critical junctures in the games.

“We got beat, basically, by one player,” said Pirate Coach Andy Rice. “It was frustrating, but it was a remarkable performance, because that one player is a freshman. It was the most dominating performance from the serve line against us since I took over the program. We’d get close, especially in the third game, and they’d make a run on her serve. Bayfield is tough, and they’ve improved from the first time we played them this year. They have a good defense, but I still think they are beatable.”

Senior middle hitter Jennifer Low led the way on offense for Pagosa, with eight kills in 13 attacks. Kala Matzdorf and Allison Hart each had two solo blocks during the match and Shelby Stretton had 23 digs in the back court.

Pagosa took to the road for Saturday’s tourney action and came home 1-3 on the day.

The Pirates lost to Lamar, one of the state’s higher-ranked Class 3A teams, 25-17, 14-25, 16-25

Matzdorf ended the match with seven kills, Low with four. Jessica Blum had eight digs, Hart hit five ace serves

“After dominating Lamar in the first game, our serve receive fell apart and we never were able to recover in game three,” said Rice. “This was probably the most disappointing loss of the season, after showing what we could be. Good passing and a dominating performance from Allison Hart at the service line led to our game 1 victory. Lamar overpowered us in games two and three. Our offense never got going as the serve receive passing was not as good as in game one. This could have been a playoff preview game for the IML since our second-place team out of the league tournament will probably end up traveling to Lamar for the district tournament.”

Rice called a 14-25, 23-25 loss to Sangre de Cristo, “Clearly the worst effort of the season on our part.

“The reasons,” said the coach, “were a hangover from the Lamar match, poor blocking and serve receive. It was as if Sangre sensed we were down and jumped on us with strong outside hitting that reminded me of their team last year. Our leader with kills (Low) had three. That is lowest total in the last four years.  Game 2 was competitive, but we still lacked leadership to get us back on track.”

The Pirates got their tourney victory over the McClave Cardinals, 25-27, 25-15, 25-19.

“It was a nice win, after a slow start,” said Rice. “We were able to slow down their big gun, one of the best hitters I have seen this year. We had our best blocking effort of the season. Offensively, McClave had no answer for Matzdorf on the right side.” The junior had six kills; Hart and Stretton each contributed five kills. Hart had 16 assists. Matzdorf and Low each had two solo blocks and Hart hit five aces.

Pagosa lost its match with the host, Fowler, 12-25, 21-25

“We had hoped to salvage a reasonable effort with the closing match versus the tournament winner, Fowler,” said Rice. “They swept previously unbeaten Lamar to clinch the tournament earlier in the day.  A slow start doomed us — at one point we were down 20-6. Fowler is probably the hardest hitting team we have seen this season. They continually were able to put the ball down, even when our block was properly formed.”

Matzdorf had four kills against the Grizzlies, and she and Low each had two solo blocks. Hart ended the match with 10 digs.

“Allison Hart’s serving, the front row attacking and blocking of Kala Matzdorf, the slide attack of Jen Low, and nice play off the bench from Jessica Blum were the individual standouts at Fowler,” said Rice. “Matzdorf and Hart were named to the all-tournament team.

“Unfortunately, until we find ways to consistently receive serve, all of our offensive weapons will continue to be underutilized. We know what we have to do, and we know the challenges that are in front of us. We will continue to focus on the fundamentals. Confidence comes from having good skills. You can talk about having it all you want, and mentally rehearse adverse situations, but until your skills are rock solid, cracks in the armor will show.”

Those skills will be put to the test Friday and Saturday in must-win IML matches with Centauri and Monte Vista.

Centauri is at the PSHS gym Friday, with varsity action starting at approximately 6:30 p.m.

The Pirates travel to Monte Vista Saturday for the final IML match of the regular season.